St. Augustine Road Trip

I have an awesome husband.  He stayed home this weekend, washed the kitchen floor grout, re-painted the kitchen table, ferried children to all their activities, and monitored the eating, sleeping and hygienic habits of our children, my sister’s children and our 4 dogs…while my sister and I went to St. Augustine for a few days.

He’s my hero.

St. Augustine is beautiful.  I must go back there.

In brief:

Got a great walk-in deal at the oldest hotel in the oldest city.  Highly recommend it.  (But why do the nicest hotels charge $10/day for wi-fi when a Howard Johnson’s does it for free?  Why?)

Met the natives.

Went to jail.

Friendly people.

Went shopping.

See explanation below.

Had beautiful blue skies.

The cathedral

Statue in the cathedral’s courtyard

Had some not so blue skies which gave us off and on rain.

The fort.

Considered napping, but didn’t.

Spanish guard room bunks.

British barracks bunks – for 4.

Overlooking the town.

 Talking to locals gets you the best tip on places to eat.  We had lunch and dinner based on recommendations from a guy we met on the trolley going around town.  Loved the cheese-ale soup at A1A Aleworks.  After vigil Mass at the cathedral, we ate at a place called Casa Maya for dinner.  Yummy.

Earlier, we reserved spots on a ghost tour/pub crawl that began at 830 pm.  With some time to kill between dinner and the tour, we went and got tattoos.  Seriously, I don’t think my husband will let me go anywhere with my sister again.

Actually, he doesn’t mind.  It’s a tasteful pair of roses.

And it’s just henna.

Sunday morning breakfast at the Athena Cafe.

This sundial on the wall of the cathedral tower would be correct if not for Daylight Savings.  It was actually 830 am.

 Quick trip to the landing spot of Pedro Menendez in 1565.

And visiting the Shrine to Our Lady of La Leche.

Saw the oldest tree in St Augustine, a 640 year old live oak in the Ho-Jo parking lot.  The one with free wi-fi.

A wall made of tabby construction.  That means made from mud and sea shells.  Do not confuse it with coquina, which is also mud and sea shells, but coquina is natural and tabby is man-made.

We did not drink from the Fountain of Youth, so I still have my gray hair.

Decided to cross the Bridge of Lions to see the ocean.  We got there just as the drawbridge was going up.  I got out and took pictures.  See that group of people on the side?  They had posterboard signs.  We asked them what they were doing.  They were waiting for a boat…

Not one of these boats…

That man’s daughter was boating with her boyfriend.  He was going to propose marriage.  Their signs said, “Will you marry me?”  Isn’t that sweet?  My sister and I had fun talking to strangers all weekend.

Waiting for the bridge…

Great day for boating…especially if it means a diamond ring…

Any day now…

We actually didn’t see the ocean because you had to pay to go to the park, and we’ve already seen the ocean.  Once or twice.  We went back to the historic district.

City gate

Just hanging out in the bay…ah, the life…
Magnolia Street – lined by live oaks.

The afternoon came too quickly.  We got to see a bit of the Browns game where we ate lunch (they were playing Miami, and we tried hard to not be too loud as we rooted for our team).  Then we hit an outlet mall, and came home.

They survived, but nobody slept…neither kids nor dogs, hence not Bill.  Good thing it was only 2 nights!

Sunday Morning Coming Down

We went to Mass last night, and Bill is dropping the older boys off to go canoeing today.

Bill plans to take Jenny out for lunch and to get her ears pierced – her birthday present.

I’m listening to my irreverent “Sunday Morning” playlist.  One of my favorite songs is Sunday Morning Coming Down, and my version has the Man in Black singing in a slow, mournful tone, much sadder than the version here.  If you’ve never felt lonely or separated from the love of God, you won’t get that song.  If you felt that way once upon a time, it will remind you to be thankful you no longer do.

The other songs on the list are very singable.  I picked them because they remind me of songs my father might have sung on weekend mornings, playing his guitar and serenading his sleeping children until they awoke.  Some of the songs, like Bed of Roses, are thematically inappropriate for children, and yet, my children know them as well as I did at their age.  Other songs, like Summertime by Kenny Chesney, are modern, but my dad might have learned to play them had they been out 30 years ago.

There are no church songs in my playlist.  I hope you still love me after that confession.

I’m stuck in my kitchen/family room area, because I’m making waffles.  Everybody has eaten their fill, but I’m making 4 batches, which should get us through the week.  I have one waffle iron, and it takes 6 minutes to cook.  Each batch makes about 6 waffles.  I’m not doing the math for you, but I won’t be going anywhere for a bit.  Perhaps my blog reading will get caught up.  Or my checkbook will be balanced.

I turned the A/C off two days ago.  That’s the first time since April, I believe.  I wore jeans last night since we went to see a movie at an outdoor venue.  I love fall.  We scrounged for warmer clothes last night, and I think I might have to do that whole clothing swap soon. 

Not today.

Today I’m going to sit and make waffles.  And take some deep breaths.  Maybe a nap.

No future in basketball or office administration

“Mom, where are my brown shorts?” asked Jenny.

“Brown shorts?” I parroted back.

She looked pointedly at the laundry hamper from which I was loading the washing machine.

“I wore them yesterday,” she said.

“Well, this is your hamper,” I replied, digging around, “and here is your matching shirt, but I don’t see your brown shorts.”

“Oh, that’s right.  I misfiled them.”

Misfiled them?”  I parroted again. *(see note)

“Yeah, I threw them at the basket and missed.  They must be on the floor upstairs.”

* Note: this parroting technique is taught at communication seminars and in marriage counseling classes.  By reflecting a person’s words one is able to confirm that the correct message is being heard without adding judgement or criticism.  This enables the speaker to clarify his or her message without getting defensive.  Do not confuse the skillful use of this method with the symptoms of DMS/DSS (Distracted Mother/Spouse Syndrome) wherein the person afflicted merely repeats words without true comprehension.

Lunch break

Jenny has a head band wrapped horizontally around her head.  She is holding two fingers up and saying, “Peace!”

These supposedly sheltered homeschoolers have somehow managed to learn about pop culture from an era that pre-dates me.  Where do they get this?  Is Netflix to blame?

Worse, though, is that Fritz’s response to her behavior is to take a Nerf gun and shoot her yelling, “Die, Hippie!”

I think it’s time to get back to work.

This and that

I still have to finish blogging about our trip to Atlanta.

(I never finished blogging about our trip to Disney…that was last January…so many photos, never posted…my children’s memory books will never be done…)

My book giveaway for The Invisible World was never claimed by Marylu.  Email me!

I feel like I’m on that playground ride that spins and you have to hold on tight or you’ll fall off.!

If you want to read that article about my husband’s unit without buying the magazine, the link is here.  No photo spread, but at least you get the story.

We’re on Week 6 of school.  I am flogging my children daily.  If they were A-types like me, we’d be on Week 8 or 9, but I won’t make them do more than their daily assignment M-F.  I secretly wish they would want to do school on Saturday or at least one extra assignment every day, but am resigned to the fact that they are not me.

Have a great day.

My First 5K

By 9 am yesterday, I was determined to not read any more of the newspaper or any blogs (I only read one, and it was a doozey).  I really don’t want to remember that day, ten years ago.  I think my life is very different today, all because of that event, and I wouldn’t change my life.  But that day hurt, and I don’t want to re-live it.

On to other topics.

Saturday, I ran my first ever 5K.  A 5K is a mere 3.1 miles, for those of you who aren’t familiar with them.  I have only run in 1 other race, two times in the Army Ten Miler in Washington, D.C. which caps its participation at some number over 20,000.  The race this weekend, the Pooler 5K (which donates the proceeds to my husband’s unit), is much much smaller than that ten mile long slog through the nation’s capital, both in length and number of participants.

While last year’s run was a lot of fun (great company at least), I felt each time that I did those ten miles, that it would be a much nicer race if it were only a 10K…6 miles is so much nicer.  After that, it’s just not fun any more.

10K races are hard to find, especially in my area (not a significant metro region).  After last year’s race, I decided I would train for a 5K…no more of this 10 mile stuff.  Having completed this 5K, I can say that this race, small venue/small distance, was great.  I may never run 10 miles again.  Here is why:

  • The race started at 8 am.  By 9 am, I was on my way home to get Peter ready for his football game, which was at 1030.  I even had time to shower before we left.
  • Parking was great; traffic was light.
  • I never ran more than 7 miles in my training program.  Generally, I ran 3 miles.  It doesn’t take that long to run 3 miles.
  • I was only a little bit sore on Saturday night.  I did not need to take any Advil.   
  • Although I did manage to lose my husband in the post-race “crowd”, I found lots of people I knew who could help point him out to me.
  • I didn’t feel the need to elbow my way past legions of pokey little puppies during the race.
  • I actually had enough energy left to sprint the last 100 yards.
  • I did not collapse at the end of the race, and after a few minutes and a half bottle of water, was able to move to the finish stretch to cheer on other racers.

Since it was my first race, I set a PR (Personal Record).  My goal was to do it in less than 30 minutes, and I did it in 28:47…with a pace of 9:17.  I generally run a 10 minute mile for a 3 mile run, and was pretty happy to do a 9:40 mile for a shorter run, so that pace is great!

Bill finished 1 second ahead of me – he says he had his chest stuck out.  He could have done it faster, but, sweet guy (not at all hard-bitten) wanted to keep me company.  I do run faster when he’s with me.  I might have run even faster if he was a quarter mile ahead of me, though. 

Best thing…to add to why small races are better than huge races:

  • I placed 8th in my age group with that time – and in the top half of the runners overall (210 out of 436…although 6 runners had errors in their time, actually making me 216 out of 436…still, barely, in the top half).

There’s another local 5K race in 9 weeks, and I plan to go.  I think I might be hooked.

Therapy Dogs and the Making of a Legend

I realize that it is unlikely that any person who reads my blog might also read Men’s Health magazine, but there does happen to be a great article in the October 2011 issue.  They did a piece on the therapy dog program at my husband’s unit.  Because this program is new (my husband’s got the only one), it is controversial (bureaucracies do not like new things).  But these dogs really seem to make a difference to some soldier’s mental health and overall ability to cope with life.

Much of the controversies have come from potential violations of regulations: pets are not allowed in barracks, only service dogs are permitted in buildings, working dogs (K-9) must be kenneled in certain ways, etc.  Therapy dogs are not exactly service dogs (like seeing-eye dogs) and they’re definitely not K-9, trained to sniff out drugs or guns or attack fleeing bad guys.  There have been growing pains as the unit has had to help define what a therapy dog is and how the dogs may live and work on post.

The Men’s Health article doesn’t talk about any of these issues.  It talks about the soldiers and how the dogs make them feel, how the dogs have improved their lives, calmed their nerves, soothed their tempers, and given them something outside of themselves to think about.  It’s an interesting read, and I hope that subscribers will come away with a greater appreciation of what some people suffer in the name of Freedom.


On a completely personal note, the article is a great keepsake for our family.  First of all, there a chest-up photo of my husband that takes up almost the entire page.  It’s nicely photo-shopped to remove any blemishes and add in a vague stubble, I guess for artistic purposes.  Secondly, Bill is quoted several times, and his quotes are added in twice on the 8 page article as a highlighted blurb. 

And lastly, and best of all, my husband, my husband, is described as “a buff, hard-bitten combat veteran” which sounds so very cool.  I had no idea I was married to Rambo.  I am so thrilled to be wed to such a walking example of testosterone-laden heroism.  Ladies, feel free to drool over my husband’s picture, but remember, he’s all mine.

I plan to take this article to a frame shop and have it mounted in some way.  It will hang on the wall of our home, and our daughters’ boyfriends will read it and know they can never compare (and hopefully worry about what Daddy might do to them if they break his little girls’ hearts).  Eventually, our grandchildren will read it and say to each other, “Wow!  Grandpa served in Afghanistan.  He must have been a really tough guy.  See, it says so right here.” 

And the myth will grow.  And I’m ok with that. 

Museum Hopping

After the parade, we headed up the street to the Coca-Cola Museum.  The previous night at the Aquarium, we purchased “Pemberton Place Passes” which, for a minor discount, paid for admission to both the Aquarium and World of Coca-Cola.  Note that active duty military get in for free to Coke, and that the military discount on the passes was decent.  The truly nice thing about having the passes, though, was not having to wait in line for a ticket.  As luck would have it, there was no line for admittance at that moment, so we breezed right in.

Truth be told, I am not currently a huge fan of carbonated beverages, although I did routinely drink Diet Coke up until a few years ago.  Those of you with soda addictions?  I just don’t get it.  Coffee, yes.  Coke, no.  I thought the museum would be fun, and thought there would be a production line the kids could see.

I have to admit that I was pretty disappointed with the whole place.

For a view into the world of pop culture and Americana, I guess this is a good place to go.  And for that, it was interesting enough.  But I don’t think that Coke is “happiness in a bottle.”  There was a section where people could write their favorite Coke memories.  Uh…sorry, I have no poignant reminiscences centering on consuming soda of any type.  The Coke-themed wedding highlighted on their wall?  Don’t get it.

A Coke couch in a Coke ad room

There was a 4-D movie experience, which I thought was awful.  I hate 3-D movies to begin with, but what really set me over the edge was the simulated bug bite which was a painful poke in the back by some device embedded in the chairs.

The “production line” wasn’t moving, so you could read about what would be happening in each particular area, but didn’t actually get to see it.  The kids weren’t thrilled, especially the ones who can’t read yet.

I did like the section near the end where you could sample all the Coke products from around the world.  Unfortunately, it was packed and people kept hovering around the dispensers blocking the way for other people.  Very obnoxious.

If you love Coca-Cola (and I know some people do) and you love the Coke culture, then this is the place for you.  But if you really can’t stand corporate self-promotion and the attitude that their product is a part of what makes America great/happy/wonderful, then maybe you should skip it.  Skip the 4-D movie either way.


No salads allowed

After Coke we headed to Johnny Rockets for lunch.  We passed the 500 people standing in line for the Aquarium, high-fived ourselves for not being in with that crowd, and waited only about 15 minutes for a table (2 tables, actually) for our group of 11.

“Would it be wrong to order a salad here?” my sister asked me.

“I think that borders on mortal sin,” I replied.  “We’re planning on going to confession later, but it’s risky – you might get hit by a car before then.”

Waiting for a table








The bike rack looked like an old-fashioned bike

How we kill time while waiting


The last museum stop of the day was the Atlanta Cyclorama and Civil War Museum.  Months and months ago, my friend, Rachel, emailed me about this place, so I had it in the back of my mind.  I don’t think I would have ever selected it had she not suggested it.  She hadn’t been to it, and was wondering if I had been there.  Now, I can say yes.  And I think it was the highlight of the trip.  We loved it.  I admit, we are history geeks, and modeling geeks, and art geeks.  But I think most people would appreciate this museum.  (Oh, who am I kidding?  At least half of America would find it boring.  Not us.)

The centerpiece of the museum is the world’s largest oil painting which depicts the Battle of Atlanta.  It was made in the late 1800’s.  In the 1930’s, a diorama was added – that’s 3-D figures and landscaping.  The diorama is so well done that it is difficult to distinguish between it and the painting.  It really gives you a good idea of what it might look like to be in the middle of a battle.  Except not as smoky.  Or as terrifying.

Maybe they should make it 4-D and assault you with air pellets.

Two lucky people got to go out and demonstrate the scale

I wish I could have gone.

The tour guide said “No photos are allowed, but if you are related to these people and you do not take their photo, you should be shot.”  She was a great tour guide.

Also in the museum is the train that chased the Union soldiers/spies who stole a different train, tore up track, cut telegraph cables, and made a general nuisance of themselves for a day.  Disney made a movie of it: The Great Locomotive Chase.  Since it’s Disney, the historical facts are dubious, but the movie is fun.  We made the kids watch it before we went.  Apparently, Buster Keaton is also in a movie about it: The General.  We’ll have to check it out.


After the Cyclorama, we raced to Mass at The Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which is a very pretty church.  We barely made it there in time for Mass, so it’s a good thing my sister did not have that salad at Johnny Rockets.

Part of the prayer intentions included praying for those who attended Dragon*Con and also that we would have an appreciation for our imagination as expressed in fiction (or something to that effect).  I think the pastor is a trekky.


After Mass, we took the kids out to the ball game.

The Parade

“You didn’t post a single picture of the parade,” complained my husband after reading my last post.

“Honey, we have 200 pictures from that parade.  I really think it needs a post all by itself.”

I’m not putting all 200 (actually 223) pictures here.  Many were blurry or we just couldn’t quite capture the essence of what we saw.  This is just a taste of the parade.  Like anything in life, you have to experience it to really experience it.

Evil stepsisters

Ahem.  Not what I’d want my daughter wearing for Halloween.

The Dread Pirate Roberts


Back to the Future car


Don’t you think this guy is too old for this silliness?

I think this guy is from Halo.

Nice teeth.

Pretty scary dude.


Some of these people looked like they walked off a movie set.

LEGO Darth Vader

LEGO Princess Leia

More great costumes

The boys were drooling

I don’t know if this guy was really tall or if he had stilts.

The time and money these people invest in costumes…

Princess Leia pushes a baby stroller.

Clone Troopers in kilts – a bagpipe band

Some thing from Star Wars

More trooper things

More troopers in kilts

 The parade was at 10 am.  I guess the convention began right afterward.  We moved on to other adventures.  Later that day, in the late afternoon, we were driving around downtown Atlanta.  I guess the convention was on break or done for the day.  Many strange creatures roamed the streets of Atlanta.

Waiting to cross is some very tall Star Wars (?) character

This guy (from Halo?) saluted me as I took his picture

It’s the Old Spice commercial guy.

I saw the Old Spice commercial guy during the parade, but didn’t get his picture.  That last shot was done at least 7 hours later.  Dude spent the day in a towel.  And no, he was not nearly as good looking as the real Old Spice guy.  Not even close.

We went to Mass that evening (that’s what Catholics on vacation do), and I did not see anyone dressed up.  My sister and husband, though, said there was a Jedi knight in a wheelchair.  Obviously, he had been assigned to the Jedi Warrior Transition Battalion.

Planning Changes

The whole reason we even went to Atlanta this past weekend was because we had gotten free tickets to a Braves game through my husband’s work.  We even had tickets for my sister and her children.

On Friday night, after the kids finally got settled, I lay tossing and turning in bed.  About midnight, just as Bill was starting to doze off, I suddenly remembered – I LEFT THE TICKETS AT HOME!  I was pretty upset (he was upset about being awakened).  And what really makes me mad is that my checklists, the ones I didn’t print out and use, have listed the item: TICKETS.  It’s a generic term, but very handy for all the trips we take where we have prepaid for entrance fees.  Had I used the checklist, I would have seen that and remembered.

I racked my brain trying to decide what to do about this: disappoint the kids?  Disappoint the adults?  Drive 3 1/2 hours there and 3 1/2 hours back to get them?  Cough up the money to buy new tickets?

Bill and I each offered to drive home to get them using my sister’s car, which had better gas mileage.  The only thing was, we couldn’t decide who should spend the day in the car (no fun) and who should spend the day with the grumpy, whiny children (even less fun).  A man in my husband’s unit was coming to Atlanta that day for a wedding, and we asked him to drive over to our house on the chance that we left a door unlocked.  Unfortunately, we were very good about securing the doors.  In the end, we decided to buy new tickets rather than spend the day in the car.



On Thursday before we left, somebody else in my husband’s unit who had free tickets (through the unit) for the NASCAR race on Sunday night in Atlanta realized they had a conflict and turned the tickets in for anyone else to use.  Knowing we were going to Atlanta for the Braves game, we were offered the tickets.  There were only 4, though, and it was on Sunday night.  We planned to come home Sunday night.

I called my sister and asked her if she wanted to go to the race.

“Now why would I want to do that?” she asked.

My sister and I were not raised by a NASCAR-loving Dad.  Dad likes football, baseball, and basketball.  He might sit and watch some other sports if he has nothing better to do, but if the lawn needs mowing, or the porch needs painting or the Sunday sudoko puzzle is not finished, I can’t imagine him watching a car race instead.

So I could understand my sister’s less than enthusiastic response to my offer.  However, I did point out that it was something she had never done before, it might be fun, and, best of all, it was free.

Still, she declined, and I told the unit to find someone else.  (Side note: the race was rained out anyway.)

This little segue does have a point.


In Atlanta, we went to the Aquarium on Friday night instead of Saturday and decided to shuffle the Stone Mountain trip to Sunday.  The big debate then was what to do on Saturday in the window of time where we were supposed to go to the Aquarium.  My sister’s friend was going to the Dragon*Con parade and she asked if we wanted to do that.

Dragon*Con?  What is Dragon*Con?

Dragon*Con is the largest multi-media, popular culture convention focusing on science fiction and fantasy, gaming, comics, literature, art, music, and film in the universe!

And they kick off their event with a parade of everyone dressed up in their costumes.

So I asked her, “Now why would I want to do that?”

And she pointed out that it was something we had never done before, it might be fun, and, best of all, it was free.  And I laughed and reminded her that she didn’t take the tickets for the NASCAR race.

But we decided the boys would enjoy it, and that’s where we headed on Saturday morning: to a parade for science fiction and fantasy aficionados.